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Penalties for Hand unknown

Chris Khorey | Friday, August 31, 2007

Notre Dame students, alumni and sports fans are asking questions regarding the punishment by the Office of Residence Life and Housing of junior football player Derrell Hand, who was arrested for allegedly soliciting a prostitute on South Bend’s south side Aug. 3.

But answers may be slow in coming.

Irish football coach Charlie Weis said that Hand, who was suspended indefinitely from the team immediately following his arrest, was “reinstated” Monday and has attended classes and football practice all week.

The junior nose guard will be held out of at least the season’s first three games against Georgia Tech, Penn State and Michigan. But, Weis said, the suspension was his and had nothing to do with Residence Life.

“It’s not the school’s [suspension],” he said. “It’s football’s.”

What the University handed out for Hand’s violation is still a mystery. Associate Vice President for News and Information Don Wycliff said the University administration had no comment. Associate Vice President for Residence Life Bill Kirk did not return several phone calls Wednesday and Thursday.

Even if they wanted to comment, Wycliff and Kirk would have to speak within the bounds of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA says that “schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student’s education record,” which means any comment from the University would have to come in the form of generalities.

According to duLac, the Notre Dame student handbook, there are 12 possible sanctions that Residence Life can levy against students that have violated University rules. They range from a verbal warning to permanent dismissal.

Many sections of duLac prescribe specific punishments for various crimes. However, there is no section that specifically covers solicitation of a prostitute – which leaves the question of punishment somewhat open-ended.

DuLac does say that “offensive sexual behavior is a serious offense,” and that “students should be aware of Indiana state law,” but while solicitation is illegal in Indiana, it is unclear whether solicitation constitutes “offensive sexual behavior.”

This open-endedness has created confusion among Irish fans, including those who post on the message boards attached to popular fan site ndnation.com. Some have even posited that the administration has decided to ease punishments for duLac violations.

“Maybe they changed it right after the MacAlarney debacle and Hand is just the first high profile student to benefit,” one poster wrote.

Posters on the message board have compared Hand’s situation to that of junior basketball player Kyle McAlarney, who was suspended for the 2007 spring semester after being arrested on marijuana possession charges.

“Suspension for an entire semester for smoking pot but not for soliciting a prostitute?” one poster wrote. “I don’t get the administration sometimes.”

However, duLac says that “possession, use or misuse of any controlled substance, including, but not limited to, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, amphetamines and depressants, is a serious violation. Students who possess, use or misuse such substances shall be subject to disciplinary suspension or permanent dismissal.” There is no such specific sanction provision for solicitation or “offensive sexual behavior.”

In Hand’s absence, fellow junior Pat Kuntz and freshman Ian Williams will man the nose guard position. Weis said that Hand, who missed all of fall training camp, has to get back in shape before he can contribute on the field.